Containment efforts continued throughout the weekend northwest of Calgary to stop further damage from an spill caused by a leak in a crude oil pipeline on Thursday. Cleanup and containment won’t be easy and could take all summer, officials said.
Property owners, ranchers and residents of the area have been devastated by the disaster in which at least 3,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Red Deer River system.
“My place is destroyed,” Gord Johnston told the Globe and Mail, as he prepared to abandon his home and later head for a hospital to be treated for exposure to the fumes. “My whole life’s work is gone. I’ve pretty well lost it all here.”
About 90 workers were erecting booms in Lake Gleniffer, some 40 kilometres downstream from the spill, according to reports, in an bid to prevent an oil slick from reaching Red Deer, Alberta’s third-largest city, which draws its water from the river.
The Red Deer River spill comes at a time when Alberta-based pipelines such as Keystone XL in the proposed Northern gateway pipeline to the B.C. are under increasing public scrutiny.
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The Globe and Mail: Cleanup of latest Alberta oil spill could take all summer
Gord Johnston’s tranquil life along the Red Deer River in central Alberta was shattered Thursday night as the nauseating scent of crude oil hung in the air and a coffee-coloured liquid lapped the banks near his home.
He reported the oil leak and, within two hours, a helicopter dispatched by a local oil company landed on his 57-acre property near Sundre, Alta., to fly him over the devastating scene. Mr. Johnston, who works in the oil patch, could see oil “boiling up” in the river at the site of a pipeline crossing. By Friday morning, the situation had worsened. Oil clotted one of the province’s most crucial waterways and soaked nearby wetlands. He found a dead fish coated with oil and brought a tar-covered baby beaver to a wildlife refuge.
“My place is destroyed,” Mr. Johnston said, as he prepared to abandon his home and later head for a hospital to be treated for exposure to the fumes. “My whole life’s work is gone. I’ve pretty well lost it all here.”
Plains Midstream Canada, which operates the pipeline that was built in 1966, shut a 10-kilometre section of its Rangeland South line. While the company is still investigating the cause and precise location of the spill, it estimated that 1,000 to 3,000 barrels of crude, or 160,000 to 480,000 litres, has leaked. About 90 workers were erecting booms in Lake Gleniffer, some 40 kilometres downstream, in an bid to prevent an oil slick from reaching Red Deer, Alberta’s third-largest city, which draws its water from the river.
But cleanup and containment won’t be easy and could take all summer, officials said.
The already engorged river could flood again as another storm system is in the weekend forecast. It may be equally difficult to undo the damage to Alberta’s energy industry, which has recently suffered a number of high-profile spills. But unlike previous incidents, this spill isn’t in a remote location and it comes as the continent is in the midst of heated debates over construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.
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The Sun News (Calgary): Ranchers, landowners fed up after latest spill
As a massive cleanup effort to contain an oil spill continues northwest of Calgary, land owners in the area are demanding the industry take more responsibility for keeping the environment clean.
"If the companies don't start doing something, our food will be gone," said Wayne Johnston, who has raised beef cattle near Sundre, about 100 km northwest of Calgary, since the 1950s.
"If I try to raise food on contaminated soil, everybody eats it."
Upwards of 3,000 barrels of oil -- about 470,000 litres -- leaked Thursday from Plains Midstream Canada's Rangeland Pipeline into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River near Sundre.
Johnston said he had 165 head of cattle on his land, but another spill in the mid-90s and increased oil production forced him to find new grazing grounds for his cows.
"I can't raise beef here anymore because there's too much oil activity," he said.
"The Shell pipeline leak is when we lost a pile of cattle in 1994.
"I tried to keep on going but the oil industry got worse and worse and worse, more pollution, more line breaks, more this, more that, it got so I shipped my cattle down to my daughter's place (five kilometres) further south and west and they're doing OK down there."
Fellow landowner Dennis Overguard suffered a heart attack about a month before the spill and was re-hospitalized over the weekend from the powerful fumes.
The 60-year-old farmer -- who has raised cattle there since he was 16 -- said he is dismayed, not only because he can't go home for at least a month, but also by what he sees as a lack of compassion from the company.
"It almost makes you cry if you think about it," he said.
"What do you do, especially when you don't feel good and you come out of the hospital?"
Overguard and his daughter Heidi were in Sundre on Saturday afternoon, but couldn't go home due to diminished air quality from the spill.
"I'm in a restaurant so pooped I can hardly go, waiting for a call back from Plains on a place for us to stay," he said.
"We've been waiting for a call back since early this morning and they still haven't phoned us.
"I'm ready to lay down on a bench."
Overguard said he would like compensation from the company for affected land owners.
"There's a lot of people who live along there, a lot of campgrounds and a lot of agriculture," he said.
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